Gustav Klimt's Judith depicts the ultimate femme fatale; through partly closed eyes, she unabashedly addresses the viewer. Her thick black hair dominates the uppermost portion of the canvas, and she shows little concern at the fact that most of her upper body is exposed. She embodies a dangerous form of sexuality, and her body type is that of a confident and fearless woman.

As with most of Klimt's work, decorate elements play a major role in Judith. Her long neck is accentuated by a gilded neck collar. Gold permeates the piece, featuring both in the stylized background and on Judith's garment. Nature has become ornament; the natural forms of trees and leaves have morphed into a pattern, contributing to an overall flattening of the picture plane. Kilmt continues to paint the figure in a naturalistic style, and manages to successfully reconcile figuative realism with a decorative setting.

Questions

1. It seems that the decorative pattern elements from the painting spill out onto the frame. Is this a purely Decadent conceit, or have we seen the boundary between image and frame transcended in other Pre-Raphaelite works?

2. If the title at the top of the image were removed, would there be any indication that this woman is Judith? Why might Klimt have created such an ambigous figure, with such subtle reference to the Biblical narrative?

3. Klimt seems to be fascinated by threatening and dangerous women. How does he convey this in Judith and other works, such as Pallas Athena?

4. Does the positioning of Judith in a seemingly natural landscape change our interpretation of the work? How has this narrative traditionally been portrayed?


Gustav Klimt Paintings by Klimt Leading questions

Last modified 5 December 2006